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Local doctors predict flu to hit Wilson County
Jan 07, 2005 12:00 am
While the flu has yet to raise its ugly head in Wilson County because of what's termed a "mild influenza season," physicians countywide say it's just a matter of time before an outbreak hits.
However, local physicians say it's not too late to be inoculated against influenza and citizens should take advantage of newly expanded guidelines that make dosages of the flu vaccine more readily available to a wider population. A recent redistribution of vaccine has brought new shipments of the vaccine into the county this week. And for the majority of those who still aren't eligible to receive the flu shot, medical professionals encourage them to explore the possibility of being vaccinated via a new age product called FluMist.
It appears Wilson County as yet has been spared a widespread outbreak of influenza this season with University Medical Center officials reporting no confirmed cases of the flu in their Lebanon complex Wednesday. Summit Medical Center spokesperson Holly Byrd said they had only one "in-patient confirmed case" of the flu reported last month.
"On Monday, the Tennessee Department of Health sent us 250 dosages of the flu vaccine," she said. "We will give those to our patient care givers."
UMC Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. John Butcher said Lebanon is flying under the radar at this point.
"University Medical Center is similar with the rest of the country," he said. "We have had a typically milder flu season than expected. Our cases have been sporadic to local activity."
Family Medical Associates located at UMC is one of Wilson County's largest practices. Dr. Bill Robertson works in the practice and said despite what seems to be clear sailing in terms of dodging the flu thus far, there's no way around an eventual outbreak.
"I've seen no real cases of the flu yet," he said. "We've seen flu-like symptoms but nothing documented. It's going to come though. Not in gangbusters, because this appears to be a mild flu season so far."
Doctors at West Wilson Family Practice said Mt. Juliet has not "been hit yet" with the virus.
"It's not in our community really," Dr. Cameron Shearer said. "We conducted several nasal flu tests and have had only one confirmed case of the flu. I think there's a strong possibility we will have an outbreak, sometimes it doesn't hit until late February."
Directly affected by the flu vaccine shortage, WWFP received some redistributed dosages of the nearly unattainable vaccine Monday. Most of those have already been administered to patients on the waiting list.
Doctors insist it's not too late to be inoculated. While only high-risk patients were allowed to receive a flu shot due to the national shortage of vaccine, those strict guidelines expanded on Dec. 21 allowing many more people to be eligible. The Centers for Disease Control redistributed an additional 35,000 dosages, some of which made it to local medical offices just this week.
The Wilson County Health Department has 650 dosages of the flu vaccine now available to a much broader range of people, Nursing Supervisor Shelnessa Cole said.
"People need to know the guidelines have been expanded," she said Wednesday. "Now people age 50 and over can get the flu shot as well as those who are in close contact with high risk individuals."
FluMist is a great alternative for healthy individuals unable to qualify for the flu shot, according to local doctors. This vaccine is administered through the nose and was approved by the FDA two years ago. And while pricey last year, this season one dose can cost as little as $35 with many insurance companies willing to partially reimburse. FluMist also has parameters limiting its use to certain populations. This vaccine is available at several private medical practices as well as PharmaCare in Mt. Juliet. It is a "live" virus. However, Pharmacare's Rhonda Robinson said it is perfectly safe.
"It's a very safe and efficient way to take the flu vaccine," she said. "There's no way you can get sick from the virus."
Robinson said you have to be healthy and between the ages of five and 49 to receive this vaccine. Many people don't realize measles, mumps rubella and chicken pox vaccines are also "live."
Dr. Robertson said it takes two weeks for any type of flu vaccine protect against the virus.
"I encourage anyone to get the flu vaccine if eligible," he said. "There's a window now because the flu season is late this year. And if you are squeamish about needles FluMist is a great option."
He also suggested at the first sign of fever, chills and a cough seek medical advice because there are many good medicines to treat the flu.
"And as always, good hand washing and avoiding large crowds will keep people from being exposed to the virus in the first place," he said.
Mt. Juliet Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by e-mail at email@example.com.